Pew: Mobile Is Only A “Secondary” Channel For Local News; Apps Very Niche

Pew, in its latest, ongoing research into news consumption and news creation, took a pit stop in the world of mobile today, and found that while handheld devices like smartphones and tablets are not the primary source for news, they have become a significant “supplemental source” after other channels like the internet-enabled computer.

The research, part of Pew’s ongoing Internet & American Life project, surveyed 2,251 adults in the U.S., and found that 47 percent of respondents got “at least some” local news and information by using their smartphones or tablets.

Within that, some types of local content stood out as more popular than others, but some of the percentages below also raise questions about how mainstream some mobile services really are, given how much they are getting used:

— 36 percent of adults said they used their devices to check weather reports;
— 31 percent used phones and tablets to find local restaurants and businesses;
— 25 percent of adults use mobile devices for local community news;
— 20 percent of adults user mobiles to check sports scores;
— 19 percent use mobile devices for traffic or public transport information;
— 16 percent use them for mobile coupons and discounts

The lower number for coupons and discounts suggests that startups that are looking to develop businesses around such services — think here of the many Groupon-style location-based coupons and offer services on the market today — may still have a long way to go before they see a critical mass of users (and, perhaps more importantly, healthy profits).

But the higher number for local business and restaurant listings suggests that there may be more opportunity to drive coupons and offers businesses in the future.

Apps. When asked about how information was delivered, the latest content fad, apps, scored nearly as high as one of the oldest, text messaging and email — 11 percent versus 13 percent, respectively. But Pew points out apps are still very niche by and large.

Taking the highest-rated news service on mobile — weather — only five percent of respondents said they get their weather from an app (one of the most popular on iOS, the Weather Channel’s free app, pictured here). The rest of the subject categories Pew asked about scored one percent or less. That seems to indicate that no matter how popular some apps like Angry Birds have become, the majority of news and information apps are still small potatoes, relatively speaking. The more apps mature as a medium — and the more ubiquitous smartphones become — the more likely we are to see these numbers go up.

Unsurprisingly, Pew says that there is a strong correlation between mobile news consumers and (fixed) internet news consumers: the more a person uses a PC to get news, the more likely that person will use a mobile as well. Convergence in action, it appears. Table spelling out those numbers below; you can see how the figures run higher than the list detailed for mobile-only, above: